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HELL I: 104 IN THE WEST VALLEY | Three Hells and a
Heaven

August 01, 1996|JOCELYN Y. STEWART

Question: When is the bikini-wearing, roller-blading, snake-toting, body-piercing, tourist-trapped beach community of Venice considered to be a little corner of heaven?

Answer: This week, when four reporters were sent around Southern California to savor the weather, which was hot (Silverado), hotter (Riverside), hottest (the West Valley) and cooler ("Momma, pack the pythons! We're moving to Venice!").

*

Nobody is playing in the sandbox today.

The sand is too hot. The swings are too hot. The gleaming aluminum slide is too, too hot.

An unmerciful noonday sun has transformed the bright blue and orange play set at Northridge Park into a silent and lonely relic.

One little girl approaches the sandbox, holding her mother's hand, her eyes fixed on the slide and swings.

In a momentary surrender to unbearable temptation, the little girl breaks free and makes a mad dash for the play set, leaving her mother several feet behind.

Wearing a victorious grin, the girl plods her way through the sand to the play set, ignoring her mother's cries to come back. She places a foot on the bar to climb up to the slide. Then a hand.

As if touching fire, she draws it back quickly. She tries again, then draws it back.

Looks can be deceiving--a lesson this little girl finally learns as she dejectedly returns to her mother, who indeed knows best.

As inviting as it seems, the park is just not the place to be on a day like this. It's even hot in the shade.

On a day like this, the park's polar opposite is the Juice Club, minutes away in Woodland Hills.

A steady stream of customers files in and out of the air-conditioned shop, men in ties, kids in tie-dye T-shirts, and a woman with aqua hair and a nose ring. They come in sweating, practically panting, looking for a way to cool off.

A Tony Bennett song plays in the background above the hum of a row of blenders, as a crew of about six makes smoothies--fruit, juice and sometimes sherbet. They come in such flavors as Pleasure Peach and Razzmatazz.

"I'm thirsty as heck. I think I waited a little too long to get something," says Tara Piazza, taking a long sip from her Pacific Passion.

Piazza works in sales and spends much of her day traveling through Woodland Hills, one of the hottest spots in the Valley.

Some customers get their drinks and leave. Others sit and sip on bar stools, striking up conversations with strangers about, among other things, the heat.

"I've lived here 30 years and I was so used to the heat," says Barbara Dellerson, who recently moved to Hermosa Beach from Woodland Hills. "Now I can hardly wait to get home." Dellerson got a Boysenberry Blitz for the road.

But some of the most satisfied faces belong to the smoothie-makers behind the counter. They look genuinely happy to be at work. On a day like today, this really is the place to be.

Better even than a day at the park.

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